You could be the face of a planned Doncaster miners' monument

A proposed Doncaster miners monument could use the faces of real borough residents, says the artist tasked with creating it.

Wednesday, 8th November 2017, 4:55 pm
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 10:35 pm
Sculptor Laurence Edwards has been commissioned to create a public art monument to Doncaster's miners. His draft design is pictured behind him

Artist Laurence Edwards, who is set to make the sculpture, is due to travel round Doncaster to get feedback from residents on what he would like to see in the final work.

And he is considering using the faces of the people he meets as part of the final statue that forms the basis of the monument.

Nick Stopforth, Tosh McDonald, Mayor Ros Jones, Laurence Edwards, Dennis Nowell and Cllr Nigel Ball at the mining statue for Doncaster launch

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Mr Edwards is also hoping to create an exhibition in the borough on the back of his consultation visits, depicting the faces of people he talks to, and will create sculptures of their faces while he is there.

He believes doing sculptures of people is a good way to break the ice and engage with them.

He said: "I'm really intrigued to know how it will go. I have no pre-conceptions.

"If I have 12 to 13 portraits that would be wonderful if some could be incorporated. If there is an interesting face, someone could be used. I'd be happy to develop this with the people who I speak to.

Nick Stopforth, Tosh McDonald, Mayor Ros Jones, Laurence Edwards, Dennis Nowell and Cllr Nigel Ball at the mining statue for Doncaster launch

"I will create sculptures of heads in the palm of my hand as we speak to people. People see the likeness and it creates an interest and builds trust."

Mr Edwards, who created a rough resign as part of his bid to get the commission, has already received feedback on the scheme, from miners' grandson Tosh McDonald, who is now the president of the rail union ASLEF.

Mr McDonald suggested the monument should also include reference to to industries which supported the collieries, such as the railways which were powered by their coal and transported it around the country to power stations and to the ports for export.

He also said it was important to talk to the National Union of Mineworkers about the plans.

He added: "I think the statue needs to not just look at the miners, but to look at the whole supply chain, and those who supplied the tools, and those who moved the coal on the railways, and before that the barges."

Residents' consultation event are on Friday November 10 at Hatfields pub (5-6pm), and Armthorpe Community Centre (7-8pm); and on Saturday November 11 at Doncaster Trades Club, Frenchgate Centre (10-11am), Brodsworth Miners Welfare Club (1-2pm), Denaby and Cadeby Miners Welfare Club (7-8pm).

Statue overdue, say miners

Former miners and their descendants believe a miners statue in Doncaster is long overdue.

Dennis Nowell, aged 73, worked for nearly 30 years as a blacksmith at Markham Main Colliery in Armthorpe, before finally retiring in 1988.

During that time he spent much of his time underground working on metal. Pit ponies had all but disappeared by the time he started, but the job title blacksmith remained.

He knew only too well how dangerous the work could be. He remembers how once he was working in an area of the colliery only an hour before it was the scene of a fatal accident..

He said: "It was dangerous work. We've got people who suffered from industrial illnesses through mining too, like vibration white finger, although there are not that many left at our age.

"But pit men were the salt of the earth and I still live in Armthorpe.

"There were still four pit ponies when I first started. But our job was to come up with anything that they needed that was made out of metal.

"Working at the pit was first class, and I had a first class job, with first class people,"

He thinks the proposals for a memorial to the industry is vital.

"It is something that should have been done years ago," he said. "Doncaster used to be a satellite of the mining communities. I think the monument should have gone up years ago when more of the former miners were still alive. But it never too late for anything.

"I think it would be great to have a real face on the sculpture - but it will need to be a well-worn face."

Tosh McDonald is also backing the plan - but would like to to also represent supporting trades such as the railways, who delivered the coal, represented.

Tosh was born the son of a miner. He himself went on to work on the railways, starting in 1979, and is now the national president of the rail union ASLEF. He still lives in Wheatley.

He said: "Every day we on the railways took the coal from the pits to the power stations and then took the empty trucks back. They were merry-go-round trains that went all week.

"But my grandfather was a miner who had a bad back after being injured in a roof fall at Markham Main. After that he left to work at the plantworks.

"He would have been devastated than the collieries have closed, but he would be so pleased to that their work was going to be recognised.

"We now have a generation of people who won't remember Britain as a coal exporting nation,. We will have generations in Doncaster who don't know unless we tell them."

Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones also has family reasons to want to see the mines remembered.

She is the daughter of a miner, Edward Cavnor, who worked at the collieries at Hatfield, Bentley, Brodsworth and Askern.

She agrees that a memorial is something that should have happened years ago, but feels the important thing is that there are now plans to depict the borough's heritage with a work of art, with the community involved.

She said: "My dad was a quiet, unassuming hard working man who would work double shifts for his family. He would be proud that there was something to remember our history."